Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Ironman Arizona 2016

Ironman Arizona Nov 20, 2016 race report

I guess this starts way back in 2009 when I joined Angie with team TriLife.....   So many from our team raced Ironman Canada that August and I remember reading the race reports and bawling my eyes out and thinking one day I would do one.   I really started to get the itch about 4 years ago but decided to put it off for the year I turned 40 so I could put more time into chasing my teens around with their competitive sports.   

So that brings us to 2016 and 9 seasons of racing triathlons under my belt and 4 years of racing half IM's.  So although I was a 40 year old IM virgin, I had a ton of triathlon experience under my belt and I wasn't racing this just to finish, I wanted to have my best day out there and as the date got closer the internal pressure was building.  I finally decided that I had to let outcome goals go for this race and really just make the day about me and executing each event to the best of my ability.   For those  of you that know me I "race" every event I enter.  I want to know what place I'm in when I get out of the water, off the bike, etc....  But for this race I knew I couldn't have my success be dependent on where I placed so I gave my supporters instructions not to tell me what place I was in until I was halfway through the run and only then if I asked for the info.   

What Marty was doing while I was busy pulling my valve core out
But still....the nerves and expectations for myself created enough stress for a very poor night of sleep.  I slept well for about 3 hours then tossed and turned until about 30 minutes before my alarm was set to go off at 3:45am.   The beauty of being up half the night with an anxious stomach was that by the time I got up and had to eat my stomach wasn't doing too badly.   I was able to get most of my breakfast down and Marty and Tara and I were on the road on time and in transition nice and early.  I got my special needs bags dropped off, set my nutrition up on my bike and as I was inflating my tires I pulled my valve core out!  Eeek!  I took a big breath and here I was thankful for arriving early as the line for the bike mechanics was short.  He re tightened my valve core (now a tool I will be sure to have with me race morning from now on!) and inflated my tires.  I double checked my bike and run gear bags and met Marty under the mill street bridge for wetsuit time.   Event though I knew hands down I was physically ready to be honest I was still feeling pretty unsure and nervous at this point.   I was really hoping the excitement would take over but it really didn't.   So many unknowns of doing this for the first time were filling my brain.  I finished getting suited up, Marty gave me the best pep talk and sent me on my way to line up for the rolling swim start.  I walked away with tears in my eyes wondering what the day would hold for me.

Swim Start

I found Tanya Salomon as I entered the chute and we lined up at the one hour sign and kept each other company. She is an absolute champ and I have so much respect for her!  I'm so glad I was able to wait with her.  When the cannon went off we started funneling to the stairs and I went to the far left where there were fewer bodies entering the water.  The first 100m meters was pretty smooth and then I started catching people that didn't seed themselves properly and ended up getting quite a bit of contact as I got boxed in a few times.  I had someone pulling down on my calves quite a bit!  I went a bit to the right for some clearer water and after a while veered back to the buoys on the left and found a bit of company.  I may have swum a bit extra here.  I didn't try to draft at all in this race.  The water was so murky it was very hard to see anything (even worse than good ole last mountain lake back home in Sask).   I was sighting a ton to make sure I didn't run into anyone, making my back a bit sore.  I was surprised at how many people were still around me 1/3 of the way through the swim, but of course I had never done a race with this many people before!  Definitely not many pink caps around me, mostly men.  Sometime after the halfway turnaround I took one too many strokes without a sight and and got kicked square in the mouth.  It shocked me so much I had to stop for a bit and tread water and gather myself.  My lip was bleeding, I could taste the blood!  My googles had been knocked askew and I fixed them and started swimming again.  I ended up with water in my googles and it was burning my eyes so I had to stop again and fix the googles.  All of this definitely messed with my focus and I know I slowed down in the final km of the race.  I kept thinking "this is a really long time to be in the water"!  But I was still really happy with my 1:03 swim time, right where I wanted to be.

I saw Marty and Angie exiting the water and heard my name from a couple others but was too focused on finding my land legs and getting to my gear to see who it was.   I rolled through transition, grabbed my bag, ripped it open before I hit the tent and was quickly in my helmet and shoes and on my way to my bike.  I had my bike in hand and headed to the mount line and was off.  As I made my way out to the street my Carstairs crew was there cheering and I offered a quick wave and was out to start the 180km ride.  

I settled in, started sipping fluids and went to have a look at my hr.  My whole plan for the bike was to ride a few beats lower than my average at the Challenge Penticton long course race....  Except my hr wasn't reading!  I scrolled through the settings hoping it would pick it up, but to no avail.  No HR for the whole race!  Ok....  Plan b I guess!  RPE!  I settled in and listened to my legs and lungs.     The first lap was interesting for sure!  Lots of age group men were already in "packs" not right on each other's wheels but no where near 6 bike lengths apart!  Maybe 1 or 2!  I did see draft marshals either giving some of them warnings or penalties but definitely not enough!  The drafting by some of the men was terrible!  I did as planned and dropped back through these packs as they passed me trying not to give away any energy to their tactics.   I was really happy with how the ride played out for the most part, being able to ride a clean race without having to drop back too many times nor burn matches to get away.   I did have a couple times where a guy would pass me and pull in front of me way too fast making me actually hit the brakes to avoid hitting him.  I also had a close call at the turnaround on the beeline on the second loop when a slower gal on her first lap was having a hard time making the uturn while 4 or 5 of us faster cyclist were also trying to make it.  Very sketchy!  I found sitting in aero for so long was making it a bit harder on my stomach than what I was used to so was a bit slower than I usually am at getting my fluids down but was able to catch up as the ride went on.  I did try taking in some solid food on the first lap, which I don't normally do in a tri and that seemed to work well.  My stomach did feel a bit fuller than usual towards the end of the bike so I was a bit worried at how that would play out on the run for sure.  

 I was able to see Marty and Angie and the TTL support crew at McClintock a few times so that was great.  Marty moved into the underpass and it made the cheering nice and loud!  I was pretty happy with how I paced the bike, riding the first two laps exactly the same, an hour out and 45 minutes back and the wind changed on the third lap making the way back a bit slower so I was an hour out, 19 minutes back for a bike time of 5:19.   I think my rpe on the bike started around 4 and maybe only built to a 5 or 6.  I really wish I could see the HR data from that ride!

My legs felt pretty good coming off the bike!  I hustled through transition and decided for a quick portapotty stop, because, no I did not pee on my bike :).  I was out pretty quick and settled into a 5:10 pace on the run.  My plan was run around a 5:05-5:10 and then walk the aid stations to try for an avg of 5:15.  My stomach was feeling off to start and I didn't feel like taking in anything sweet but I knew I still had to get the fluids and calories in so stuck to my fueling plan of taking a gel at 30 minutes and then one every 45 minutes after that.  I took in water and Gatorade to start at each aid station, except when I had taken a gel and then only water.  After 3 miles my stomach settled and my legs were coming around and it wasn't too hot so decided to run the aid stations.  I was also dumping water on my head at every aid station and taking in some ice as well (great to chew on between aid stations).   I starting taking in coke in the second half of the marathon and that went down really well.   

The support I had on the run course was amazing!!  Angie at the McClintock turn around twice, Toni and Dave on each side of rural a few times and Marty on both sides as well multiple times and locations.  My Carstairs posse by mill street three times and one of the gals I coached in cross country and track was at the top of the hill (she surprised the heck out of me!  I was so excited!), by run special needs...  She got around!  I saw Sarah VT a couple times too!  Wow it was awesome!!  Marty cracked me up every time I saw him!  He was pretty excited by how well I was doing and feeling and I think the second last time I saw him I told him he had to stop it or I was going to cry!   I don't know where this visual came from but every time I passed a timing wire I had this visual of a living room full of my supporters back home standing up out of their seats and cheering, like their favourite team had just scored a goal.  Seriously.... I know I'm weird!  I smiled a ton on the run course, always giving the people cheering a smile, maybe not as much in the final miles but I smiled a ton during the run!  I cheered on those I passed or that passed me as much as possible, taking in the energy from around me and hopefully giving some back.  

The muscle pain started around the half way mark and I was worried about how the second half was going to feel so I slowed down a wee bit but my energy still felt great and I continued to try and work with a 5:10-5:15 pace as much as possible.   I saw Angie at the 14 mile mark and told her, "ok, you can tell me now".  But she didn't know so she and Trevor figured it out and texted Marty and when I saw him around 16 miles he told me I was in fourth and running them down.   I was pretty happy with fourth to be honest and knowing my place wasn't going to change my pace or my plans but it was nice to know.  I don't know when I passed third place but I passed Tanya at the far turnaround on the other side of the lake.  She had absolutely annihilated the bike split, even with a flat.  They changed her whole wheel and she didn't have enough gears so perhaps she had over biked a bit and was feeling it on the second lap of the run.  I have so much respect for Tanya and she has been a great support for me building up for this race.  I asked her if she needed anything, told her she was amazing and kept pressing forward.  

The final two miles were so hard!   I saw Marty and wanted to stop and give him a kiss but I knew if I let my legs stop it would be a bad idea.  I saw the Carstairs posse one last time but was starting to get emotional so didn't swing across the road for high fives that time.  I saw Jacque and gave her a pat on the back and told her she was doing great.  We were going through the base salt station and they had loud music blaring.  Once the music died down I heard her yelling at me to go!  It was awesome!  My legs hurt but that draw to the finish kept me going!  I hit the bridge and knew once I crossed it that I would see the 25 mile marker and I was so excited I yelled out loud "I'm on the bridge!"   

The best place in the world!  The finisher's chute!
Once I hit Rio Salado and the one mile marker I started getting emotional thinking about the finish line and I though a lot about my kids watching the finish line feed and of course the support I knew was going on back home.  I had to say out loud to myself a few times "not yet" to keep my emotions in check.   I had one last hit of coke (haha) at the last aid station and pressed on!  I saw Angie a couple hundred meters from the finish and she was so excited!  I was starting to lose my cool so I told her to stop, lol!  I couldn't even look at her!  I picked up the pace a bit going up the hill and made the final turn into the finishing chute and then finally let myself go emotionally.  Marty and the Carstairs posse were in the stands and I hit them with high fives and was bawling!  You know, the ugly cry where you can't breath very well?  I was alone in the chute and once I hit the carpet I slowed to walk to take it all in and let the emotions flow.  I threw my arms in the air...  I had done it!  I was an Ironman!  Finally!!!!  As soon as I crossed the line I made a heart with my hands around my eyes for my kids and blew them a kiss then burst into full on tears as my catcher wrapped a blanket around me.

I walked around a bit in the finishers area, afraid to sit down and made my way over to the fence to find Marty.  I started crying again and gave him a big sweaty / Gatorade / coke soaked hug.  The Carstairs crew and Angie came over and they got the same!  After the hugs I went back into the finisher area and chowed down some pizza :)  I was shocked I was able to eat!  After eating I got changed and made it to the finish to see Tara cross and then decided to pack it in and head back tired and sore and completely thrilled!  

By the numbers:

Swim: 1:03:31 1:38/100m. 5th age group, 39 all women (including pros) 208 all competitors 
Bike: 5:19:11. 33.8km/hour. 6th Age group, 35 all women 221 all competitors
Run: 3:43:21 5:18 min/km. 2nd age group, 27 all women 171 all competitors 

Overall time: 10:11:44
2nd age group, 7 amateur female overall, 27th out of all females including pros.  171 all competitors

This guy... what a support he has been for me!  I couldn't have done it without him!

Podium with the men

Kona bound!!  And with this awesome coach who got her spot a week later!

Superstar stalking!  Canada's own Lionel Sanders who set a new IM World Record at IMAZ!

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